May Be, May Be Not

From unseasonable days of April-cool. we’re now in a week that promises to feel more like June. As a result, I have lost track of what exactly to expect for my Open Day on June 5. ( Have you made your reservation to visit yet?). It will be what will be.

This past week, the tulips have shone brilliantly. I’m not at all happy to have this rise in temperatures as it means a hasty end to my tulip season. Another cool week would be so nice. But, as if to assure me that the fun will continue, the alliums are bursting open everywhere and one cannot help being cheered up. In the checkerboard garden, the creeping phlox is rippling in bloom. I wait all year for this brief but effervescent presentation. Its habit of growing with merry abandonment makes this plant a personal favorite. But, just to make note – the alliums are a bit early and the phlox a bit late. Thats how May rolls this year. Unpredictable.

The peonies and roses show buds ripening but nothing to see as yet. Fingers crossed, they will perform in time for visitors on Open Day.

With the sudden realization that I have less than three weeks to get the garden visitor-ready, I’m armed with a very long list of things that must absolutely get done by then. In trying to delegate some of those chores to my in-house labor force, I’m being met with some reluctance to hop to it. Worse, both, spouse and daughter have the audacity to tell me that there are certain other tasks I’ve overlooked. So, I have issued an all-hands-on-deck order and I have become the uber task mistress. My facial expression and general body language has been set to Don’t Mess With Me.

With the warming days, there’s been the reassuring sight of bees busy in the garden. And the birds are going about madly building nests and singing loudly as they do so. Butterflies sightings are increasing too. Stuff like this never gets boring.

Now that the possibility of frost is no longer a threat, it’s time to get some tropicals installed in pots to add a bit of drama. I’m looking forward to a trip to my nursery – the anticipation alone is thrilling. For me, nothing beats horticultural retail therapy.

With all the iffy-ness of this May weather, I find myself frequently wondering about things like, will the climbing hydrangea bloom in a week or so? The roses? The peonies? Will the alliums and camassia last long enough?

The pressure is on! There’s no telling what will be shining in the garden on June 5. Please do come and find out! .

Note: Just to reiterate – Open Days tickets must be purchased on-line. The link is not live as yet but please check here to get up to date information.

Now that we are slowly getting back to gathering with family and friends, its fun to plan and decorate for the occasion. Select from the Printed Garden collection for pretty and practical (machine washable) decorative pillows, tea towels, napkins and such.They make good gifts too!

Here’s some of what is blooming in the garden at present –

Amsonia twinkling brightly

Any day now!

First clematis of the season

Alliums in the meadow

Phlox in the checkerboard garden.

Tulip heaven

Quince in flower

(c) 2021 Shobha Vanchiswar

Natural Instincts

When you take away the commercial hype, the holidays are really all about nature and our relationship with it.

First, there’s the emphasis on light. Life on Earth is sustained by sunlight. Compensating for the short days of winter, we turn to our own illuminations. We light candles – to honor and remember, to disperse the dark, to give hope, to celebrate. Lights are strung outdoors wrapping bare limbs of trees, on gates and around pillars, porches and bushes. Lawns come alive with all sorts of illuminated scenes. Indoors, mantles, windows, banisters, doorways and the Christmas tree twinkle like stars. Fireplaces glow and dance – truth be told, we light ours as much for it’s bright ambiance as its warmth.

For me personally, the Winter Solstice is a turning point. The sheer knowledge that with each passing day we gain a minute of sunlight, buoys my spirits considerably. It is life affirming.

In our quest to decorate our homes for the festive season, we resort to nature. The tree, wreaths, garlands, roping, amaryllis, paperwhites, poinsettia and other flowers, strings of nuts in their shells, dried slices of oranges and whole spices such as cinnamon and star anise, pomanders of citrus studded with cloves bring fragrance and beauty to the celebrations. I have cinnamon ornaments made decades ago that still infuse the air with its aroma. One year, we were in Aruba for the holidays – we decorated our tree with sea shells gathered from the beach. So many of the other ornaments are modeled after nature – birds, animals, flowers, fruits and vegetables ( I’m amazed that holiday pickle ornaments are so popular!) abound. Stars, suns and moons made of paper (punched or plain), wood, metal, glass or even plastic allude to our romance with the celestial. Surrounding ourselves with elements of the natural world is important and essential to our physical, mental and spiritual health. Nature – we cannot, will not, must not get away from her.

So, give yourself permission to go all out. Decorate, illuminate, celebrate. It’s but natural.

Happy Holidays one and all. Be healthy, stay safe.

Trimming The Tree

Love hangs memories

on awaiting arms

twinkling happy thoughts

as new stories get written.

While the past is shed

the present unfolds itself

into the future.

                                                                              – Shobha Vanchiswar

Light Affirming

Winter’s stingy light

ekes out thin ribbons

of measured hours

Unlike generous summer

providing lugubrious lengths

of unfiltered radiance.

In the cold, rarefied light

the spirit wanes in echo

Till warm, broad rays

rekindle one’s love affair with life.

                                                                          – Shobha Vanchiswar

The next 6 images: the first  are from driving around neighborhoods and the other 4 are from Untermyer Gardens. Do try and visit!

(c) 2020 Shobha Vanchiswar

Are You Ready For Friluftsliv and Hygge?

Ah, fall! So fraught with contradictions. New beginnings like school and renewed resolutions – a second new year. And then, a winding down of activity as we prepare for winter and years end. We plant bulbs and make plans for the spring to come and we say goodbye to summer as we put the garden to bed. Beginnings and endings.

The weeks leading up to November will be busy. New plantings of shrubs will happen this week. I’ll slowly start cutting back and cleaning up. Mulching will be done to keep the beds cozy and warm. The greenhouse will be cleaned and readied to welcome back the tender plants. Hundreds of bulbs will be planted and several others put into cold storage for forcing. Outdoor furnishings put away or taken down. Repair or replace items and fixtures. Protect some plants like the roses and also the pots too large to store indoors. Firewood ordered and stacked.

I’m also getting ready to can, dry, freeze produce. Tomato sauce, grape jelly, pesto, store herbs, bake and freeze zucchini breads, This is all with hygge in mind. The Danish concept of ‘a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being’. As we move indoors, I want to make sure we have all that we need to feel good and safe through the dark days of winter. I’m stocking up on games, books, puzzles, lists of shows and movies to watch, podcasts and music to listen, new recipes and some creative projects. Warm throws and blankets will be available for comfort and coziness. This year, I’m bringing several of the smaller topiaries into the house to create a feeling of the garden. Eventually, amaryllis and other forced bulbs will grace every room until once again, we can step back into the garden next spring.

In my home, taking advantage of the weather, family members used various garden areas, terrace and even the tree-house as their ‘office’ through the spring and summer. As work from home continues, proper indoor work spaces need to be accommodated and made comfortable, have good lighting and adequate electric outlets and other essentials. I think it is imperative that we clearly distinguish between work and leisure and strike a good, healthy balance.

To me personally, this year feels a bit emotional. The garden has meant so very much more. In addition to sanctuary, teacher, muse and therapist, this year, it has been my lifeline. It has kept me healthy in mind, body and spirit in a really big way. So, within an overwhelming surge of gratitude, I’m feeling somewhat nervous and sad. As the days get shorter and winter settles in, there will be no garden to keep me grounded and occupied. I will miss safely distanced gatherings with dear friends. Not being able to hug them has been hard enough.

The cold notwithstanding, get outside I will. I must. Nature therapy is crucial. It’s free and inclusive – absolutely no excuse for not helping ourselves to fresh air, a dose of nature’s beautiful healing energy and some much needed exercise. It’s a way of life. That’s what Friluftsliv is all about. Loosely translated from Norwegian, it means open-air living’. Accepted as essential for mental wellness, the outdoors waits to serve.

I’m determined to get the better of my inclination to hibernate ( okay, I’m prone to laziness) and get quality time outside every day. In the hope of extending the time we can linger outdoors and continue to safely meet friends in the garden, I’m researching outdoor heating options. And when winter puts an end to that, going on walks will always be possible. Safe yet social. Nature and social engagement are quite possibly the best prescription combo for good overall health.

Note to self: corral winter walking shoes and other warm active-wear and keep ready.

We have all learned so much this year. And we’ve come so far. The world is still scary. As the pandemic rages, there are storms, fires and social unrest to contend. Lets do what we can to keep ourselves and each other safe and healthy.

Note: In the spirit of hygge, you might want to add some beautiful, useful elements to perk up your home with items from the Printed Garden collection. You will at the same time be supporting the ACLU and help it bring about civil/social justice.

Below are images of things that have brought me joy this past week:

Countryside vibrant with goldenrod.

Camouflaged!

The resident praying mantis

The vertical garden right now

Ready for a socially distanced evening

The tree-house ‘office’

A swathe of sunflowers

(c) 2020 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

Weather Perfect

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.” Marcel Proust

Ah, Open Day has come and gone leaving me with a sense of relief, well-being and satisfaction. The weather was perfect. After three straight years of cold, wind and rain on Open Day, this exquisite day was well overdue.

The sun shone bright, the air was dry, the temperature was ideal – not hot, not cold, a gentle breeze prevailed and the garden was filled with the buzz, tweets and hums of bees, birds and butterflies. The flowers rose to the occasion and shone bright and beautiful. I could not have asked for any better.

It is almost impossible not to respond positively to weather such as that. There is an imperceptible yet powerful shift in one’s mood and outlook. For myself, it felt as though a new energy had moved into my body. Being outside in the garden felt so right. There was no other place to be. No bugs biting, no jackets weighing me down, no sweat to wipe off and, best of all, no chores to do. This was as good as it gets.

It was the perfect weather to share the garden. And the garden looked its best despite the cold and rain it had endured thus far this spring. Several plants were lagging in their bloom time but the others stepped up admirably. Every visitor arrived with happy spirits and curious minds. Of the 100 or so visitors, I did not encounter a single person with the slightest hint of negativity.

As much as I love sharing my garden, I adore meeting other gardeners and garden lovers. I learn so much. This time, I picked up on a new-for-me nursery to check out, a few gardens I must visit, a book to add to my summer reading, enjoyed several good laughs, received feedback on my own garden and made new partners in horticultural-crime. At the end of the day, I was so much the richer – in heart and head.

Under such ideal conditions, it was inevitable that the best conversations ensued, strangers became friends, and for the one brief day, all was well with the world. Marcel Proust was so right.

A heartfelt thank you to all who made this Open Day a resounding success. Visitors, volunteers, friends and family – nothing is possible without you.

Note: Here are lots of photos for all those of you who failed to show up!

IMG_1343

Friends from Chicago

(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar

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There Are Gnomes In The Garden!

Gnomes. Makes you recall those all too familiar, garishly painted figures with pointy hats right? While these spirit creatures hark back to the 17th century and earlier, their presence today is viewed as somewhat naive and old-fashioned. Like gazing balls, they recall earlier times and are not commonly seen in today’s gardens. Truth be told, I myself have never been taken by them.

That is, until I recently came upon a modern take on gnomes at the Sullivan galleries in Chicago where highly talented, emerging ceramist August Brosnahan was debuting his gnome collection. And the creatures were getting a lot of attention and interest. Here is how Brosnahan describes his work –

I am interested in human interactions with objects and how objects help us relate to the world around us. Whether it be the handle of a mug or the facial expression on a figurative sculpture, these objects have unsaid and sometimes unnoticed methods of guiding us through spaces. Humans spend a tremendous amount of time interacting with clay and ceramic objects. I believe that humans have deep-seated connections with ceramics, more so than other materials, due to the rich history we share with clay. This mindset is central to the form and presentation of my work as I create intimate connections between viewers and the object.

Another element that is central to my practice is my love for walking. I have recently distanced myself from the white-walled gallery as I spend hours in forests and fields. A notable example of this is my ongoing series, “Gnomes.” I create small personified objects that preferably exist in an outdoor setting. Multiples of these objects create a community that viewers can interact with by walking through the same space that the gnomes exist in. I activate the space that the viewer is standing in rather than a space that the viewer is looking at. With my work I hope to re-invigorate the overlooked spaces of our day-to-day lives.”

I have long championed sculpture in the garden. Art in an outdoor space adds a new dimension and there is a shift in context that enriches the experience as opposed to seeing the same sculpture indoors. At this particular art show, I could clearly imagine how they might transform a garden or park. My curiosity to actually see that happen led to inviting the artist to show some of his work at my garden on Open Day.

So, five pieces were carefully packed and shipped to New York. I worked with Brosnahan on siting the gnomes in the garden and I’m really excited to share them with visitors on May 18th.

Meant for outdoor spaces, the seemingly whimsical pieces urge the viewer to consider the dynamics between all the elements in a space. The ceramic gnomes make one aware that there is an energy and presence beyond that which we can physically see or feel. They appear to blend into the background and yet, manage to surprise and be noticed. These sculptures maintain continuity in the human history of personifying natural and designed spaces. The impact is subtle and fresh. A modern twist to an old tradition.

Several weeks ago, I hinted that I was working on a new project in the garden – just for Open Day. This is it! I look forward to introducing you to the gnomes. See you in the garden on May 18.

Note: Open Day is less than two weeks away!

(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar

Waxing Poetic

It’s a busy, busy time in the garden but I cannot let April go by without honoring it with poetry. It is National Poetry Month after all.

Deflowering Spring

The earth blushed cherry pink

Even as the forsythia glowed yellow

From innocent fresh born

to fertile maiden

In the flutter

of butterfly wings.

Shobha Vanchiswar

Spring Cleaning

Sweep away detritus

Winter’s wild remnants

Prune roses

June’s dress code

Straighten borders

Summer edges to spill

Outside order

Inside peace

Clearing, cutting

Room to breathe deep

Opening, widening

Mind broaden fast

Plants get bigger

Spirits grow higher

Colors multiply

Senses infused

Days lengthen

Smiles brighten

Outdoor classroom

Paradise within

Shobha Vanchiswar

Colors Of Rain

It rained cherry pink today

Drenched in pleasure

I walked on rafts of petals

floating on rivers of grass.

I predict tomorrow

it’ll drizzle pear white

Washing away footprints

leaving behind confetti flowers.

Shobha Vanchiswar

Note: Open Day is May 18. My garden as well as Rocky Hills will be ready and waiting for you!

IMG_3345.jpg

(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar

Sunday In The Garden

Last Sunday was a gift to this impatient gardener. Bright and sunny, temperatures in the mid-60s and a garden just waiting for a do-over. No bugs trying to feed on me, no place else to be. This was heaven.

With the scillas, hellebores, early crocuses and Abeliophyllum distichum ( white forsythia) in bloom, it felt as though I had a cheering squad. The air was gently scented by the Abeliophyllum – a bonus!

So many chores got done. The front lawn was scratched up, reseeded and layered over with compost. Lets hope no destructive rains occur till the grass comes up. A daily sprinkle for about an hour would be mightily appreciated.

A trip ( the first of the season! ) to my favorite nursery resulted in a host of plant purchases. A few perennials like Jacob’s Ladder, lungwort, unusual looking ajuga, dianthus and sweet woodruff, annuals such as pansies, nemesias and lobelias, potager must-haves – beets, Swiss chard, arugula, kale, lettuce. I helped myself to herbs as well – lavender, hyssop, lovage, bronze fennel, sage, thyme, tarragon, parsley, cilantro and one that I plan to use extensively through the spring and summer – Mojito mint. Yes, that is exactly what it is called.

The spring window-boxes were put up – daffodils, tete-a-tete and pansies. Urns and planters in various locations in the garden now sport similar plants to tie in the whole look.

The new ajuga accompany two young Japanese maples (also picked up at the nursery) in a large, copper container by the front door. The plan is for it to look elegantly understated through the seasons. I also stuck in some muscari to give it an early pop of color. Nothing flashy though – the window-boxes above take care of that. The urn nearby, also on the front porch, will echo both with its mix of the pansies and muscari.

The vegetables are esconsed in their bed looking fetching in diagonal rows in hues of deep plum, bronze and greens. The herbs are in terracotta pots that will go on the ‘herb wall’ but for now, until the weather truly warms up, they sit in the greenhouse biding their time.

My cherished Anduze pots with boxwood balls were brought out of the greenhouse and placed in their appropriate sites. Should a frost be imminent, they will be easy enough to protect with fleece and burlap. Other plants in the greenhouse will be brought out in a couple of weeks.

On the vertical garden, some ferns we had overwintered in the vegetable plot under a cover of burlap were put back on the wall. Fingers crossed this experiment will prove successful. If so, it’ll be a good development in our quest to preserve the ferns through the winter.

By days end, I felt so exhilarated. Good progress under very work-friendly circumstances renders a most delicious sense of satisfaction. At the same time, my muscles were tired and the back was sore. A hot shower followed by a tall mojito ( with eponymous mint ) in the embrace of a comfortable, plush chair was well deserved. I sincerely hope that said mint can keep up with all the drink orders to come.

Note: My Open Garden Day is May 18.

The reception to the New Horizons exhibit is this Sunday, April 14.

 

(c) 2019 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Pesky Matter Of Illegal Aliens. Part I

I have very strong feelings about allowing in illegal aliens. I think it is a matter of cultural integrity and maintening ones special, exclusive status. Border control must be seriously tightened and constant vigilence is in order. How else can we preserve the integrity of our land? Have I made you feel a little uncomfortable? A tad unsure about where this is going? Worry not, I’m talking about a different type of illegal alien – an unsavory assortment lumped into one abhorrent group under the banner Weeds. Have I got you on my side now?!

Anything not desired in certain parts of the garden is a weed. In my garden, what is strictly not allowed in one area is permitted to run rampant in another. I’m fickle that way. See, its a case of behavior and purpose. While a plant is well-behaved where it is controlled by not-so-perfect conditions, it can run riot elsewhere when given all that it enjoys. Case in point are the hellebores. Given an extra dose of daily sunlight and a thicker layer of mulch in the perennial beds, they do not selfseed as prolifically as they do in semi-shade. I can only vouch for this in my own garden. And it suits me fine. Providing less than perfect conditions is a way to exercise some control over plants that are, in general, well liked and welcome.

But this practical approach has not the slightest impact on true weeds such as chick weed, crab grass, pigweed, curly dock, horsetail, bindweed and so many others. Those are the ones that are not to be tolerated any where. They behave like thugs, gang members and, murderers. Some are super sneaky and go unnoticed by blending in while others grow so fiercely that they can be mistaken for a genuine stalwart of my garden. The very nerve.

Now that we’re well into summer and the horrid, humid heat is on high, the weeds are about the only group of plants that are completely unfazed. Requiring absolutely nothing from me and my numerous horticultural services, they thrive in abundance. I find this quite unfair and take it as a personal affront. After all, I permit just about anything in my ‘meadow’. (Garlic mustard and other invasives are of course forbidden). Even in my handkerchief size front lawn, I’m not going for pristine. Clover, burdock and anything that is green participate in giving me the desired verdant counterpoint to the perennial beds. Between the two areas they must make up at least half the size of my garden. I feel I’m being mighty generous and accomodating to the weeds. But no, they are greedy. They want to trample all over the flower beds, paths and any place restricted. I work so hard to discourage them. Composting and mulching to suppress their residency. Patrolling regularly and pulling them out ruthlessly (and rootfully!). It is plainly an unending chore.

Interestingly, charmers like the rambuctious and strong-willed Mysotis and Ajuga that bloom so beautifully with the daffodils in the meadow know they are not to show up elsewhere and therefore do not do so. Why can’t the weeds learn from example?

Needless to say, I’m a tad miffed. It is just not fun spending so much of the cooler hours of the day in the tiresome pursuit of ridding the cutivated areas of these cunning interlopers. But there it is. No other way around it. Rather grudgingly I admire their persistence and resilience. Someone ought to locate and isolate those specific genes and put them into the plants we love but are ever so fastidious and/or delicate. For the time being, I accept this as the price I must pay for my organic corner of Paradise.

Next week, I shall continue on the subject of weeds and dazzle you with some nuggets of handy information. Wait with bated breath!

A charming quartet in the meadow - daffodils, dandelions, ajuga and forget-me-nots.

A charming quartet in the meadow – daffodils, dandelions, ajuga and forget-me-nots.


The much maligned dandelion is made very welcome in my meadow.

The much maligned dandelion is made very welcome in my meadow.


(c) 2014 Shobha Vanchiswar

Closing Our Borders

Over the years, I’ve expressed my opinions and thoughts about increasing our usage of native plants, supporting native flora and fauna, being environmentally conscious in the garden and in general applying organic, ecologically responsible methods. I’ve often mentioned the name Douglas Tallamy as the authority on this subject. Having read his book Bringing Nature Home when it came out several years ago, followed his work and on occasion corresponded with him, it was with particular eagerness that I went to hear him speak at the Greenwich, CT Audubon Society a couple of weeks ago.

An unassuming, affable man, Tallamy is a powerhouse of knowledge and understanding of all things in the sphere of entomology and wildlife ecology. I’m summarizing his talk and I hope the information I give will make you sit up and do something.

Ecosystems perform locally. Biodiversity equals ecosystem services. We have degraded 60% of earth’s ecosystem services. Given that 80 – 90% of plants are propagated by animals not wind, we have effectively sterilized our neighborhoods. As Tallamy puts it, we have demonized it! We are living with ‘nature deficit disorder’. Plants literally allow all living things to eat sunlight. So when there are fewer plants, there is less to eat and therefore less support for all animals.

The United States is a human dominated ecosystem. We uphold our lawns as a major status symbol. To date, we boast 72, 500 square miles of suburban lawn. That is eight times the state of New Jersey! And growing. Given that lawns barely sustain any living creature, it stands to reason that we’re seriously impacting our local ecology. Simply thinking our parks and preserves can do the job is ridiculous. They are too small, fragmented and isolated. A contiguous space of diverse plantings is critical to support our birds and butterflies. With that will come all other valuable critters.

To do this, we must not only introduce many plants but we must select more native plants. This is because not all plants support the food web. Natives do. Whilst alien species aggressively replace natives, they support insects very poorly. Five times more insects (think caterpillars) can feed on native species. Native plants and insects share an evolutionary history. Indigenous insects are not adapted to eat alien plants. Take the Monarch butterfly for example – it depends on specific native plants and in a way, this specialization is its curse because with disappearing natural habitats, we are in danger of losing this valued butterfly. With fewer and fewer insects available, think what this will do to our native birds. 96 % of reproducing birds eat insects. Insects provide the high levels of protein and nutrients needed by these birds.

A world without insects is a world without biodiversity. Birds forage close to their nests. Alien plants will not provide them the local supply of the food web. We’ve come to view plants only for their beauty and not their ecological role. But if we understood the number of caterpillars or other insects supported by native trees and shrubs, we’d realize how imperative it is to plant them. We must create corridors connecting natural areas. This can be done easily if each of us filled our gardens with the right plants.

Lawns are biological deserts. They demand a high amount of fertilizers, weed and pest killers to keep our lawns pristine. Add to this the pollution created by gas powered mowers, water table contamination by use of aforementioned assorted chemicals and you have the ideal recipe for a green wasteland. Reduce the area of lawn and begin the transition from alien ornamentals to native ornamentals. Those all too familiar albeit pretty, Bradbury pears or crape myrtles lining our streets and dotting our front lawns do virtually nothing for sustaining the food web. How about replacing them with our own Amelanchiers or Cornus alternifolia? Create meadows, plant more native trees and shrubs, do away with as many ‘miracle’ products. ( To this I say –This is not hard people!)

With native plantings in place, we can set the calender by what is in bloom and what insects and birds are observed. We fill our lives with surprise, anticipation and entertainment. Just think, a mere fifteen minutes spent in nature each day has measurable medical benefits. It is within our power to make those minutes the most amazing ever.

Admittedly, it feels awfully good to have an authority such as Tallamy give credibility to my own all too frequent passionate calls to pay more attention and take more responsibility for protecting our natural environment. Lets just get to it shall we?

Please, please get yourself a copy of the recently updated and expanded Bringing Nature Home by Dr. Douglas Tallamy. I cannot recommend it enough.

This just in! I had alerted Dr. Tallamy on this post of mine and asked him for feedback. Here is his response “Hi Shobha,
Nice job! You were on the money complete. Nothing to add at this end. Thanks for your support.
Doug”

Swallowtail caterpillar

Swallowtail caterpillar


Red Admiral

Red Admiral


Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail


Great Spangled Fritiilary

Great Spangled Fritiilary


White Admiral

White Admiral


(c) 2014 Shobha Vanchiswar

On Your Mark, Get Set …

Its February and we’ve just crossed the halfway mark through winter. Hurray! It has been a particularly brutal season and although it still feels like we’re in Antartica, spring will be here in some weeks. And when it does, we’re going to be ready. Right?

Okay, lets get organized. Gather your garden journal, laptop/tablet, paper and pen, garden photos from last year, seed and plant catalogs, the telephone and your drink of choice. Get cracking! Review, revise, make lists, draw plans, place orders, chart out schedules. Have a vision and act accordingly. Time spent planning and preparing is never a waste.

As I’d mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m planting a shadblow tree this spring. I will order it from my local nursery now so they can get it for me as early as possible. Likewise, all the plants I intend to get into the garden this year. I have the pressure of getting my garden ready for its Open Day (May 10)!Seeds will be started soon – vegetables and annuals. In addition to the usual seed flats started in the greenhouse, I’m going to try out the method suggested here: http://www.gardendesign.com/seed-sowing-snow
Go on, experiment along with me. Lets see what we learn.

Sorting through photos and notes, I’ll consider what worked and what did not. Successes and failures are great teachers. I’ll revise plans and see what improvements and additions are required. Each task will be prioritized and scheduled. This includes repairs and rearrangements. Tools will be sharpened, cleaned or replaced as necessary. Supplies such as stakes, ties, Epsom salts, dormant oil, fish and seaweed emulsion etc., will be restocked. The big calender will be filled with all the chores – daily, weekly, monthly etc., Vacation weeks will be factored in. As precise as all of this sounds, I always keep it flexible as weather and life have a way of messing up plans. After all, this exercise in preparation is meant to make gardening pleasurable. Lets keep it that way.

To help with tracking what needs to be done when, do refer to the Things To Do page on this website. Depending on your location and type of property and specific garden design, you can add or alter as per your needs. Whilst we go about gardening in relative solitude, there is a deep comfort in knowing one is part of a like-minded tribe of caretakers of this beautiful, generous Earth.

A friend sent me this link and I think it has great potential. Do check it out:
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/technology/personaltech/review-parrot-flower-power-plant-sensor.html
I’d love to get feedback from those who try this.

With so much to do, February will seem shorter than it is! Soon after that, the snowdrops will be awakening. Will you be ready?

Some good news: My photo of a milkweed seed pod opening to release seeds made it into the BBC ‘Your Pictures’! Check out link below. I’m very kicked! < http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/in-pictures-25942841 >

Garden journals and notebooks

Garden journals and notebooks

 

Ready to be transplanted!

Ready to be transplanted!

 

Root cuttings of hydrangea, myrtles and scented geraniums

Root cuttings of hydrangea, myrtles and scented geraniums

 

Making raised beds

Making raised beds

 

Popular gourd in India but exotic here!

Popular gourd in India but exotic here!

 

Patty-pans for the gourmet

Patty-pans for the gourmet

(c) 2014 Shobha Vanchiswar